Republication of “Unequal Cities of Spectacle and Mega-events in China” in French

Pleased to confirm that a paper of mine, entitled Unequal Cities of Spectacle and Mega-events in China and originally published in 2012 from the journal CITY, is going to be republished in French from the journal Alternatives Sud (AS) in March 2016. The republication is part of the journal’s themed issue on globalisation of sport,  with a focus on mega-events and their implications on developing/emergings countries and populations.

The journal Alternatives Sud is part of the activities by the Centre tricontinental (CETRI), a progressive research centre founded in 1976 in Belgium. According to the centre, it now aims to:

“promote a better understanding of the North-South/South-South relations and problems and to contribute to critical analysis of the dominant concepts and practices of development in the context of the neo-liberal globalisation. It is particularly supportive of understanding and discussing the role of social and political actors in the South who are fighting for the recognition of social, political, cultural and environmental rights.”

If you are interested in reading the full paper, you may visit the journal’s web site or here.

“Speculative Urbanisation in Asia”, an LSE-PKU Summer School course

The London School of Economics runs a summer school programme annually in Beijing in collaboration with Peking University. There will be altogether 15 courses provided for the 2015 session, including Speculative Urbanisation in Asia (course code GY201). This is an urban geography course of mine, an updated version of Urban Asia and China taught in the 2014 session.

Applications for the 2015 LSE-PKU Summer School in Beijing, China, will open in early January 2015. Early applications are recommended. For more details on application procedure and details of fees, accommodations and entry requirements, please visit the official web page of the LSE-PKU Summer School here.

Please feel free to e-mail me if you have any enquiries about the course itself. Below is the summary of the course descriptions and a list of topics covered.

Course Outline

The course explores the contemporary dynamics of urbanisation in Asia, with special emphasis on cities in China and other East and Southeast Asian economies, which share theexperiences of rapid urban development with strong state intervention in speculative city- (re)making and economic development. The course will benefit from the geographical advantage of taking place in Beijing and make use a number of China case studies to examine the differences as well as similarities of urban development between Chinese and other Asian cities.

Applying interdisciplinary and comparative perspectives, the course encourages students to develop critical knowledge and comparative understanding of how urban space is transformed in different social, economic and political settings, and what socio-spatial implications are made in a differentiated way upon local populations. Throughout the course, we ask whether the concepts and theories born out of the (post-)industrial Western urban experiences can be applicable to the understanding of urban Asia. We also ask what are the challenges that cities in East and Southeast Asia face, given its current development trajectory. We do this by examining a set of carefully selected themes that address (a) the integration of Asian cities with the global economy, (2) the distinctive characteristics of Asia’s urban development, and (3) the place-specificities of state intervention in forming urban growth strategies.

Course Contents

Day 1. Introduction: Planetary Urbanisation and Asian Cities
Day 2. Speculative Urbanisation and the East Asian States
Day 3. Urban Change in (Post-)Socialist China: Dialectics of Decentralisation and the Path
Dependency of Economic and Social Reform
Day 4. (Re-)making Cities in East Asia: Speculative Urbanisation and Growth Politics
Day 5. Land and Housing Development in China: ‘Nation of Chai’ (Demolition), Sub-urban
Development and Informality
Day 6. Olympic Cities: Event-led Urban Development and Politics of Spectacles
Day 7. Heritage and Urban Development (inc. Field trip to central Beijing)
Day 8. Gentrifying Asia: Global Gentrifications and Politics of Displacement
Day 9. Contesting Cities: The Right to the City and the Critique of Property-rights Activism
Day 10. Indebted Citizens: Economic Crisis and Work/Social Inequalities

LPS-GY201-2014 (1)

Part of the university campus where Peking University students carry out their daily life

LPS-GY201-2014 (2)

Weiming Lake (or Unnamed Lake in English) in Peking University campus

LPS-GY201-2014 (3)

Field trip in central Beijing (Drum and Bell Tower area) as part of the course activities in 2014

LPS-GY201-2014 (4)

One of many university canteens in Peking University

LPS-GY201-2014 (5)

Group photo session for the 2014 LSE-PKU Summer School students

Free access to the journal Environment and Urbanization until 9 December 2013: Includes two papers of mine

SAGE has just announced that to celebrate the 25th anniversary and the 50th issue of the journal Environment and Urbanization (http://eau.sagepub.com/content/by/year), all contents of the journal are given free access. This is for a limited period only until 9th December 2013.

This also means two of my papers from the journal, listed below, are freely available until the date:

Shin, H.B. and Li, B. (2013) Whose Games? The costs of being “Olympic citizens” in Beijing.Environment and Urbanization 25(2): 549-566 View on the journal site

Photo1 Photo2

Continue reading

Beijing in November 2002

오래전 찍었던 사진 정리하다 올린다. 베이징 4환 순환도로, Xiaoying 근처. 2002년 11월 겨울 초입

The picture below was taken near the northern section of the 4th ring road. Somewhere around Xiaoying in Beijing, China. Taken in November 2002.

Beijing, China, 2002

Beijing, China, 2002

2002년 겨울 초 베이징에 머물렀었다. 그 당시에도 빠른 속도로 변해 가는 중국 베이징… 그 변화폭은 마치 88년 올림픽을 앞둔 서울을 연상케 했다… 아니 그 보다 더 압축적이다… 늘어가는 자가용 보유율 따라 마차도 점점 사라져 간다. 그래도 처음 볼 때는 마냥 신기 @.@

당시, 마차의 사용이 줄면 이 말의 (당나귀인가…?) 지친 삶도 좀 편해질까 의문스러웠다. 결론은, ‘아니다. 마차 사용 안하면 말은 생을 마감한다… 중국 말도 예외는 아니다’ 지금도 이 생각은 유효하다.

Drum Tower and Bell Tower area in Beijing facing redevelopment

The heritage conservation area surrounding Beijing’s Drum and Bell Tower is another place that I try to make a repeated visit whenever I am in Beijing. The first time I was here was back in 2002 when Shishahai was at its very early stage of becoming an entertainment zone. It was still tranquil back then. In the summer of 2004, when I was back in Beijing to organise a workshop, I was told that some academics and heritage conservationists including journalists were busy with writing a petition letter to stop the imminent demolition along Jiu Gulou Dajie as part of its expansion. Since then, I remember coming across with occasional news reports about whether or not this area with a high concentration of dilapidated courtyard houses would be subject to demolition and redevelopment.


Drum Tower



Bell Tower
Earlier this year, I received an announcement from the Beijing Cultural Heritage Conservation Center that it was to host a forum ‘Saving Gulou‘ on the planned demolition of this neighbourhood. It was cancelled eventually due to government intervention. The Center’s web site states:

“Despite Gulou’s cultural importance, multiple sources have indicated that a 5 billion RMB budget has been allocated to convert 12.5 hectares of the Drum and Bell Tower area into a ‘Beijing Time Cultural City’ – putting the neighbourhood in serious danger. Such a massive scale development will include large infrastructures like public squares and a museum. As a result, there will be extensive evictions, demolition, and construction in this ancient area, and gone will be the traditional courtyards, hutongs, and local residents.”

Until today, it seems that the district government has kept quiet not to reveal the actual detailed plans regarding the neighbourhood redevelopment, which makes the future very uncertain for every party involved including local residents. While the immediate surrounding area north of Drum and Bell Tower remains intact, the southern parts of Drum Tower East Street and Drum Tower West Street show a visible trace of demolition already taking place. Zhongtao Hutong, closer to the northern section of the 2nd ring road, is also going through demolition.

Demolition: South of Drum Tower West Street
Demolition: South of Drum Tower East Street


Since the early 2000s, Beijing has been experimenting with various conservation strategies. So far, it seems like there are two distinctive models: Nanluoguxiang (or perhaps Shishahai) model and Qianmen model. The former involves gradual upgrading of facilities and dwellings as well as selective demolition and reconstruction. Courtyards in relatively good conditions get traded as they nowadays attract high-end investors (mainly overseas Chinese so far). The Qianmen model involves a complete make-over (some refer to it as ‘fake-over’) of an entire area by means of demolition and reconstruction, though a number of people would disapprove what has become of Qianmen nowadays. A senior editor at China Daily told me that the district government wanted to re-create the kind of architecture and streetscape from the 1930s and 1940s when Qianmen was at its heyday commercially, and hence took the building prints from those days to rebuild all the new buildings. Obviously, the array of these buildings create a strange atmosphere as if you are in a film shooting scene. The same senior editor mentioned earlier was correct to point out that there was no longer the kind of interaction between these shops on ‘new’ Qianmen and local Beijing residents, which used to create the unique and vibrant environment in the old days. Most shops that now exist along Qianmen Street are hardly affordable by ordinary Beijingers, and those with buying power are unlikely to come to this street to do shopping due to the touristic environment. After all, for the newly rich in Beijing, there are far more attractive places than Qianmen to do shopping. On the other hand, many tourists would find it expensive to shop here. It would be interesting how the shops survive here.

Qianmen: View South



Going back to the potential redevelopment of Drum and Bell Tower areas, it would be very important for the government (especially the district government in this case) to realise the importance of the interaction in order to keep the soul of this place. Otherwise, it will create another ‘ghost’ town.

Wudaoying Hutong, the next Nanluoguxiang?

Nanluoguxiang in Dongcheng District of Beijing is now known as a culture district, promoted by the district government as a showcase for heritage conservation and tourist attraction. While many hutongs in Beijing’s inner city areas have disappeared due to demolition and reconstruction-oriented urban renewal strategies, some hutongs have been selectively experiencing revalorisation through upgrading (if interested in this topic, see my paper, ‘Urban Conservation and Revalorisation of Dilapidated Historic Quarters: the case of Nanluoguxiang in Beijing’). Nanluoguxiang has been one best example, with its heavy concentration of traditional Beijing residential dwellings known as hutong and its long history that goes back to the 13th century.

This time in Beijing, I came to notice a newspaper article that talks about the rise of Wudaoying Hutong as the next Nanluoguxiang. The hutong is located west of the Lama Temple (Yonghegong), and I’d assume the area is also part of the designated heritage conservation area. The hutong connects Yonghegong with Andingmen, and is a relatively quiet place. I took a walk along the hutong, and it does experience some infiltration of commercial/cultural activities, which would probably resemble the early phase of Nanluoguxiang. Continue reading

Beijing Xinzhongjie neighbourhood – Demolition begins

Every time I come to Beijing, I try to make a repeated visit to some selected places in order to see what’s been changed. In a way, it is a semi-academic exercise, almost a ritual, in order for me to grasp the speed of Beijing’s socio-spatial changes. After all, Beijing is a city that condenses its development trajectory many folds.

One such place is called Xinzhongjie, located near Worker’s Stadium in Dongcheng District. This is an area that I studied several years ago. If any reader is interested, some of the findings can be found in my article, Residential Redevelopment and Entrepreneurial Local State. Part of this neighbourhood was redeveloped several years ago, now accommodating Yangguang Dushi (or Sun City), a high-rise commercial housing estate. Upon completion of the first phase redevelopment, there were rumors that the remaining part of this neighbourhood would experience redevelopment fairly soon, but somehow, the work has not taken place until recently. When I came to see this area last year March, the area stayed exactly the same as what I had seen back in 2003.

The neighbourhood now depicts a marked difference. It is quite visible and evident that demolition is now taking place, and the low-rise buildings that used to accommodate small businesses appear to have become the first target. It is very probable that the local authority took years to sort out the fragmented property rights of these small businesses, which may involve numerous rounds of negotiations with various work-units and business owners regarding compensation measures. It seems like these negotiations have now reached conclusion. Most residential dwellings remain intact as of now, but I would expect that they would be subject to demolition quite soon. One last remaining pingfang (one-storey dwelling) neighbourhood in this part of Beijing will soon disappear. It would be interesting to find out what becomes of this neighbourhood and the fate of the original residents.

[Travel] The Old Bookworm, Beijing

An interesting plae that I happened to find by chance. It is located on Sanlitun South Street, diagonally opposite the new Sanlitun Village complex. It is fairly spacious and has a large collection of China-related ‘English’ books, and apparently hosts book talks, which is something that I also find quite new in Beijing. It seems quite popular among expats and local Chinese younger generation. The venue is open until 2 am. It also operates a roof terrace bar, but it opens till 12 midnight and is also recommended when it does not rain.

It certainly has a different feeling when compared with all those noisy bars on Sanlitun North Street, which has also become ‘orderly’ – no longer appealing to me at least. It serves Western food and the quality seesms acceptable. And most importantly for travellers, it provides wireless internet connection. Apparently, all the cafes that I’ve been to so far in Beijing this time had wireless internet provision. Quite a big ‘progress’.

Update (as of 3 September 2012)
The venue’s web site: http://beijingbookworm.com
Address: Building 4, Nan Sanlitun Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100027, P.R. China
How to get there:

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[Travel] Beijing Sanlitun – Fancy new development emerging

Beijing has changed again. This time in Beijing, the new development on Sanlitun North Street (known as ‘Sanlitun Bar Street’) came to me as a surprise. Sanlitun Village is something completely new to me, and it is apparently very bustling, full of luxury shops, bars, restaurants and cafe that aim at the new ‘middle-class’ in Beijing. Beijing’s Apple Store is also based here. The whole complex is quite visible from distance, and it has an inner courtyard space with fountain areas as well as roof-top terrace that accommodates fancy bars. It certainly is a new type of development that Beijing has not seen before, and I am wondering who is behind this development. Perhaps another Hong Kong-originated capital?

Right next to the complex situates another new development site of Sanlitun SOHO, and the name makes it clear who the developer is (correct me if I’m wrong). It is another huge complex of seemingly mix-use, and does stand out in this whole area. I am not quite sure but in my memory, the area used to be a low-rise hutong-like area, which accommodated some small bars (less fancy but cozier than those bars on the main Sanlitun Bar Street), but it seems to have been all demolished fairly recently.

Obviously, this part of Beijing is a prime site, and it is not so surprising that this area is going through this type of development. Perhaps it has come too late from the government and developers’ perspective. What is interesting is that these new development projects are making the previous development obsolete in style. Those residential and commercial buildings built in the 1980s and 1990s (or even in the early 2000s) appear to be outdated when they are juxtaposed with the new development. We will see what new development is going to be triggered in the near future.

Bluesky in Beijing?

Wanfujing 거리 옆 쇼핑몰 전면에 내걸린 걸개그림. 그 크기도 인상적이었지만, Paralympic Games를 준비하면서 여러 군데 내건 정성이 지극하다. 하계올림픽 기간에는 어떤 그림이 내걸렸을지 자못 궁금하다. 지난 며칠간 소나기 등 비가 자주 흩뿌려서 그런지 오후 2시 못미친 이 시간에도 하늘이 한국 가을 날씨처럼 파랗다.

역시 파란 하늘 배경의 천안문. 눈부신 햇살 가득한 오후, 청홍색이 더욱 뚜렷이 대비된다.
베이징에서 텐진에 가는 고속철도를 이용하고자 베이징 남역으로 가던 택시에서 찍었다.

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